Omega Centauri is a so-called globular cluster in the constellation Centaurus, right here in the Milky Way galaxy. On a dark enough night, you can see the cluster below the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. To the naked eye, Omega Centauri will not stand out as anything more than a faint, fuzzy star. But with a powerful enough telescope, you should be able to distinguish some of the 10 million stars clustered together to form the single point of light in our night skies.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said: “When observed with the unaided eye, Omega Centauri, the object in this image, appears as a fuzzy, faint star.
“But the blue orb we see here is, in fact, a collection of stars – 10 million of them.
“You cannot count them all, but in this sharp, beautiful image you can see a few of the numerous pinpoints of bright light that make up this unique cluster.”
In this particular case, the Omega Centauri cluster was photographed by Wouter van Reeven.
Mr van Weeven is a software engineer at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid, Spain.
The astronomy enthusiast had a chance to snap the incredibly striking image during a total solar eclipse over South America on July 2.
From Spain, Mr van Weeven would have been unable to spot the cluster very low on the horizon.
However, from La Silla Observatory in Chile, he was able to snap it high up in the night skies.
The photo is a combination of eight 10-second exposures, seven 30-second exposures and seven 60-second exposures using a telescope and a Canon EOS 200D camera.
The blue orb we see here is, in fact, a collection of stars – 10 million of them
European Space Agency (ESA)
ESA said: “Omega Centauri is a picture-perfect example of a globular cluster: tightly bound by gravity, it has a very high density at its centre and a nearly spherical shape – the name ‘globular cluster’ comes from the Latin word for small sphere, globulus.
“It lives in the halo of the Milky Way, at a distance of about 15,800 light-years from Earth.”
Globular clusters like Omega Centauri are typically made up of very old stars.
These clusters also appear to be no longer active, meaning there is no stellar dust and gas present for new stars to form.
The “heavy” composition of the stars suggest they were formed in an earlier stage of the universe before our Sun came to be.
ESA said: “Unlike in many other globular clusters, however, the stars in Omega Centauri don’t all have the same age and chemical abundances, making astronomers puzzle over the formation and evolution of this cluster.
“Some scientists have even suggested that Omega Centauri may not be a true cluster at all, but rather the leftovers of a dwarf galaxy that collided with the Milky Way.”
And at 10 million stars-strong, Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster in the Milky Way and measures approximately 150 light-years across.
Omega Centauri is also the largest and brightest cluster, weighing four million times more than our Sun.
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